For the first time since Mario Cristobal became the University of Miami football head coach, the Hurricanes have beaten an AP Poll-ranked team. Their efficient offense and ardent defense pushed them comfortably over the No. 23 Texas A&M Aggies 48-33 at Hard Rock Stadium Saturday.
However, the win came with a grueling downside. 2022 All-American safety Kamren Kinchens, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the game, was carted off the field with an injury with only 1:58 left.
“So far, reports that we have on Kam – everything seems relatively normal,” head coach Mario Cristobal said. “I’m going to head over [to the hospital] after this press conference – see how he’s doing – think we’re going to be fine.”
The junior, whom many believe will be a top pick in the next NFL draft, has been a critical component of the Miami defense and is a vital leader and friend for his teammates.
“Kam, he’s in my heart, my prayers, he’s the heart and soul of the team,” safety James Williams said postgame. “He really brings it, he really wants to win, he wants to change the culture here. He wants to be great, and he wants us to be great. I guy like Kam, he’s an amazing guy, that’s my boy.”
The ‘Canes came onto the field Saturday afternoon and showed how great they are to beat Texas A&M.
Offensively, the passing game worked to perfection, with quarterback Tyler Van Dyke having one of his best outings as a Miami Hurricane with his 375 passing yards and five touchdowns. He was super accurate as well, completing 21-of-30 passes. Four of those incompletions were drops.
“Tyler did great tonight,” wide receiver Jacolby George said. “Once he’s locked in, he is locked in, and when we are all on the same page, there’s no stopping us.”
Defensively, the ‘Canes forced three turnovers – two interceptions and one fumble – which led to drives ending in ten Miami points. They turned up the pressure against Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman, forcing him into those turnovers. Weigman ended his evening by completing only 31 of his 53 passes, a 58.4 percentage. Constant quarterback pressure is something Miami defensive coordinator Lance Guidry likes.
But at first, the game didn’t seem like it’d be a sure-fire Miami victory.
After a ‘Canes kickoff return that ended up on the nine-yard line and a three-and-out on the game’s first drive, A&M’s Jahdae Walker blocked a punt to give the Aggies an easy trip to the end zone. A one-yard run by Weigman clinched the 7-0 just after two and a half minutes.
The ‘Canes would hold A&M to a field goal on their next drive and score a touchdown of their own. However, special teams mistakes crushed them again. Jacolby George fumbled a punt that the Aggies recovered. Texas A&M would run the ball into the end zone again, this time by the hands of running back Amari Daniels, to extend their lead to 17-7. It did not affect Miami’s winning mindset.
“When you change cultures, you have a choice to make,” Cristobal said. “But if you believe in it, and you make sure the right people continue to grow and stay, and you bring in like-minded and hard-working people, that’s a nice combination.”
It did not matter to the players that they were down. They understood that they quit on themselves. Early in the second quarter, redshirt freshman wide receiver Isaiah Horton burned his defender en route to a 52-yard touchdown – putting the score at 17-14. On the next drive, Miami gained 31 yards to set up an Andres Borregales field goal, but he missed. Texas A&M kicker Randy Bond ironically missed a field on the very next drive.
That sparked a dream 44-second drive just before halftime. Thanks to four plays that gained more than ten yards, including a 32-yard Colbie Young catch to put the ‘Canes into A&M field territory, Miami ended the half with an 11-yard touchdown to Jacolby George, giving them the lead for the first time of the day and into the half at 21-17.
“The culture is at an all-time high right now,” Wide receiver Xavier Restrepo said.
The Aggies got right back to business after the break. They marched 64 yards down the field before they arrived on a pivotal 4th and one at the Miami six-yard line. However, after a false start, they settled for a field goal.
The drive did not intimidate the Hurricanes, especially receiver Brashard Smith. He returned the kickoff into the end zone, making a phone call gesture before getting there. It put the ‘Canes up 28-20.
However, A&M would find their feet again, putting together a 75-yard drive that ended in a 19-yard pass from Weigman to running back Earnest Crownover. Although they stopped the two-point conversion, Miami’s lead was cut to 31-26.
The defense only decided to bend in that moment and certainly didn’t break. On the next A&M drive, Miami cornerback Jaden Davis smashed the ball out of Amari Daniels’ grasp, and Kinchens was there to recover the ball. It led to the touchdown that gave Miami their largest lead of the day: A Jacolby George three-yard touchdown catch that gave Miami a 38-26 lead with 12:37 left in the game.
Even though Texas A&M got another touchdown, Miami made sure there would be no comeback attempt thanks to a 64-yard touchdown by Jacolby George with 2:22 left in the game.
Miami answered their biggest test of the season so far extraordinarily. Many Miami fans doubted that a victory could be obtainable; however, their team proved to all 48,792 people in Hard Rock Stadium that this team has taken strides towards improvement compared to last year’s 5-7 season. However, with the loss of Kinchens, who knows if the win is what the team was thinking about when the clock struck zero.
Miami will take on another opponent they faced last year in Bethune-Cookman next. However, they’ll play them on a short week, with the game happening on Thursday Night at Hard Rock Stadium. Kickoff will take place at 7:30 p.m.